Battery technology leaps forward - two new developments

Researchers at a university have announced improvements to battery technology that could see 10-fold increases in capacity using an air-fuelled design, while a separate group has laid the groundwork for a lithium battery that can store and deliver more than three times the power of conventional lithium ion batteries.

The air-fuelled design comes from researchers at the University of St Andrews, UK, and improves capacity by the addition of a component that uses oxygen drawn from the air during discharge, replacing one chemical constituent used in rechargeable batteries today. Not having to carry the chemicals around in the battery offers more energy for the same size battery.

According to Professor Peter Bruce of St Andrews, the target is to get a five- to 10-fold increase in storage capacity, which is beyond the horizon of current lithium batteries. Our results so far are very encouraging and have far exceeded our expectations. The key is to use oxygen in the air as a re-agent, rather than carry the necessary chemicals around inside the battery."

The St Andrews research team is also working towards making cell prototypes suited for small applications, such as mobile phones or MP3 players.

Separately, Professor Linda Nazar of the University of Waterloo, Canada, is looking to demonstrate electrochemical performance for a lithium-sulphur battery. She claims that sulphur shows great promise as the ideal partner for a safe, low cost, long lasting rechargeable battery, and should deliver more than three times the power of conventional lithium ion batteries.

"The difficult challenge was always the cathode, the part of the battery that stores and releases electrons in the charge and recharge cycles," said Nazar. "To enable a reversible electrochemical reaction at high current rates, the electrically-active sulphur needs to remain in the most intimate contact with a conductor, such as carbon."

For more on these stories in Cellular News:
- Lithium-suplher battery breakthrough
- An air-fuelled battery

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